Long Islanders who need more funds to continue -- or begin -- rebuilding their Sandy-damaged homes will receive money within weeks, a state official told a spirited crowd of about 300 people Thursday night in West Babylon.
Many homeowners have expressed frustration with the delays and red tape they say they've faced in trying to rebuild after superstorm Sandy. Thousands of Long Islanders who have applied for storm-recovery grants are still waiting, and some remain displaced because they cannot begin repairs until they receive more funds.
The money to pay for future work will be distributed shortly, Jon Kaiman, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's special adviser for Long Island storm recovery, told the crowd at a question-and-answer session at West Babylon Junior High School.
"Hopefully, within a matter of weeks, the money is going to start flowing, and you will be getting money now directly for the reconstruction," Kaiman said to applause.
NY Rising, the temporary state agency charged with distributing federal Sandy relief funds, has received approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to begin sending checks to about 6,000 homeowners for future work, according to NY Rising spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio. The checks will fund 50 percent of the repair work approved in homeowners' reconstruction award letters, she said.
In addition, NY Rising next month will begin helping eligible Sandy-hit homeowners pay their mortgage bills, Kaiman said. Some displaced homeowners are paying rent for temporary apartments while struggling to make mortgage payments.
NY Rising has distributed nearly $100 million to about 3,000 homeowners, reimbursing them for out-of-pocket repair costs, Brancaccio said. That includes $74 million in 2,256 checks sent to homeowners in Nassau County and more than $23 million in 653 checks in Suffolk.
In his opening Thursday night, Kaiman acknowledged homeowners' frustrations. For those who haven't received any funds because they haven't begun work, he said, the reimbursement money sent out recently "doesn't get you where you need to go . . . We are going to make sure that you get all the resources that you are eligible to receive."
Minutes into Kaiman's remarks, many in the audience grumbled. "Let's get some real answers!" one woman shouted. More shouts followed, until one of the event organizers asked the crowd to quiet down.
One homeowner asked Kaiman about the requirements for elevating a home, including the need for soil-boring tests. Later, she expressed frustration with NY Rising, saying she still doesn't have the information she needs. "The rules change, but nobody knows what the rules are," said the homeowner, Michele Libertella of Lindenhurst.